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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Harry Dean Stanton

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

As not seen on TV.

In the small, relatively folksy town of Deerfield, Washington, FBI Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak) inexplicably disappears while hunting for the man who murdered a teen girl. And although the killer is never found, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), after experiencing all sorts of crazy dark visions and supernatural encounters, actually predicts that whoever did such a murder, will do another, and very soon. He’s right, because somewhere in the small, relatively folksy town of Twin Peaks, a high school girl named Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), will soon mate the same fate, however, she obviously doesn’t know. Instead, she spends most of her last days alive, hanging with friends, whoring herself out to dirt-bags, doing coke, and oh yeah, being pestered by her sometimes sadistic father (Ray Wise), who may, or may not, have more sinister intentions in his head.

Fire Walk with Me is obviously the perfect movie for fans of the TV show. It doesn’t just set everything up in a perfect little bow that we came to know and expect from the show, but actually makes the show, in ways, better. For instance, Fire Walk with Me, being that it’s movie, allows for David Lynch to unleash his darkest, meanest and cruelest tendencies, unlike anything he’s ever tried to do before, whereas with the show, it’s a lot more silly, odd, and well, somewhat light. Of course, the show has its dark moments, but when it comes to which piece is the darker, meaner of the two, Fire Walk with Me absolutely takes the cake.

Poor Laura. Someone give her a hug.

That said, it’s also one of Lynch’s lesser appreciated movies because, well, it’s not exactly that much of a mind-trick.

There are bits and pieces of it where Lynch loses control of reality and lets his freak-flag fly, but mostly, it’s actually subdued, so that he can make way for more time with Laura, these characters, and the awful situation that she’s in, all leading up to her death. It’s actually a pretty brave decision on the part of Lynch, who doesn’t just seem like he’s trying to tell the story that we spent nearly two seasons of episodes trying to know more and more about, but also get down deeper into the myth and the idea of Twin Peaks, in that the bright, sometimes shiny little town by the woods, while pretty on the outside, is also pretty dark, screwed-up, and ugly.

Really, really ugly.

But still, that’s why Fire Walk with Me, while definitely a flawed movie, still hits hard; it’s unrelenting and brutal, but it also comes from a soft spot in Lynch’s heart, clearly. While he’s not against showing these characters getting down and dirty with life, he also knows that there’s something about them that he feels for and sympathizes with. Mostly in the case of Laura, he understands that she has a rough life and doesn’t want her story to go unnoticed, which makes it a slight bit traumatizing to see just where her story goes and leads up to, even though yeah, we all know where it’s going.

And really, Fire Walk with Me works perfectly if you know Twin Peaks, the show, sort of love it, and accept it for all that it is. If you hadn’t seen the show, there’s sort of no point to seeing this; there’s one too many threads, call-backs and references that just work way better if you already have previous knowledge. Hell, even the few times that the movie does try to go back make a mention of the show, it’s a little sloppy.

Uh, what?

For example, Agent Cooper does show up here and there, every so often, but it’s so random and unnecessary, it just feels dumb. Same goes for an odd appearance by David Bowie, who literally bumbles his way through three minutes, and Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak’s cop characters, who honestly don’t serve much of a purpose to the overall story. They’re all just added-on threads to a story that’s honestly kind of thin in the first place.

The only one who really matters here the most is Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer.

Lee, with a face that any camera could fall in love with, takes over every scene she has here, with sheer heartbreak and sadness, that she makes the movie better, just by showing up and giving it her all. While she was on the show and still great, she was playing two different characters, essentially – as the living, breathing, sexing, and snorting Laura Palmer, Lee is terrific. You feel for her every second, even when the movie seems to lose all control. Because, in a way, she has too, and it’s why it’s all the more tragic of a watch.

It almost makes you wish that she was in the show more. Something we’ll finally be able to see, hopefully with the show back, in all its glory.

Or maybe you. Never freakin’ know with David Lynch.

Consensus: Even though it’s got some random and weird issues, Fire Walk with Me is still a perfect tribute to those who loved the show, and also want to explore the darker side of the tale.

8.5 / 10

Fun times.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Inland Empire (2006)

Wait. What?

Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an accomplished actress who, after much time spent waiting and wondering, finally gets the role as the lead in On High in Blue Tomorrows. It’s supposed to be her comeback role, so to speak, so there’s a lot of pressure wearing on it, not to mention, a lot of pressure from her husband not to fall in love with her co-star Devon (Justin Theroux). Sure, it can be done, but the two are playing characters who are having an affair, making it a tad bit harder. However, the director (Jeremy Irons) trusts that both of them will keep it as professional as can be and will make sure that the movie comes out perfectly, because believe it or not, it’s been attempted before, but for some reason, the movie just hasn’t been made. Why, though? Eventually, Nikki and Devon find out and it causes both of them to start imagining weird, rather insane things, that they don’t know if is real, or not.

Wait, what?

Honestly, there’s a lot more to the premise of Inland Empire, in that there’s not just one story, but about three or four more of them, none of which make a single lick of sense, or better yet, ever seem to come together in a way that you’d imagine. Now, if sitting around for three hours and watching as a bunch of random stories get told to you in the most confusing manner imaginable sounds like a good time, then be my guest and enjoy the hell out of Inland Empire.

I, however, didn’t and just couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. Sure, there were things to admire and of course, this is David Lynch we’re talking about here, so I can’t be all that surprised, but still, it just didn’t quite work for me. There was so much going on, without any rhyme or reason, that after awhile, I had to sort of give up and just accept the fact that the movie’s going way beyond my intelligence and I’m best to just let it do its thing and see if I can make it up in the end.

Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.

Sure, is that more of a problem with me, as opposed to the movie? Definitely, but by the same token, there is something to be said for a three-hour movie that not only feels every bit of it, but never seems to show any signs of actually going anywhere. Lynch is well-known for doing this sort of thing time and time again, and while it’s always had me happy and rather pleased, this go around, it just didn’t work. It seemed like too much meandering and craziness for the sake of being meandering and crazy, as if there wasn’t a whole lot of story, but weird and surreal imagery that Lynch just had to get out of his system.

And okay, it makes sense, because the look and feel of this movie is, above all else, freaky. Then again, how could it not? Filmed on a hand-held digital-camera, the movie is grainy, dirty and downright gritty, but in a way, it’s also more terrifying for that reason alone, often times feeling like a documentary, than another glitsed-up flick. Film itself can do wonders, but digital-video can also do the same, especially when you’re really trying to go for an aura of realism, even if, you know, there’s nothing realistic happening here.

No seriously, what?

And once again, that’s all me. The movie gets away doing its thing, but it’s so frustrating to watch, that no matter what Lynch does behind the camera and how much inspiration may come out of him, it just didn’t connect for me. There’s a lot going on here and a lot that randomly happens, but the only thing I could remember clearly in my head was a very few haunting-images, bunny-rabbits, a dance to “the Locomotion”, and a lot of walking down hallways.

Like, a lot.

But Laura Dern, all issues aside, is great here and gives it everything she’s got. There’s no denying that Dern’s probably perfect for Lynch’s creepy, twisted and warped mind, and it’s why her performance here, with so many shades shown, is something to watch. Even when it seems like the rest of the movie has gone far, far away, she’s always there, working her rump off and making sure that everything sticks together. She allows for it to do so, too, it’s just a shame that it didn’t fully connect at the end.

For me, at least.

Consensus: Absolutely confusing, weird and random, Inland Empire is a hard movie to get into, mostly due to its frustrating plot, but there is some art to be seen here.

5 / 10

See, even Laura doesn’t know.

Photos Courtesy of: Pretty Clever FilmsFour Three Film

The Straight Story (1999)

Get it? Because it’s not a total mind-f**k!

Alvin (Richard Farnsworth), an elderly World War II veteran, lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), who has an intellectual disability. When Alvin hears that his estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, he makes up his mind to go visit him and do it all, hopefully, before he dies and they’re both left to feel like they missed out. However, there’s an issue: Alvin doesn’t have a driver’s license and Lyle does live very far away. So what can Alvin do to travel all of this way to see his bro? Well, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty-year-old John Deere 110 Lawn Tractor, that has about the maximum speed of about 5 miles per hour, and sets off on the 240 mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin. Of course, he runs into all sorts of colorful and rather normal characters throughout his journey, most of whom offer to drive him the whole way there, with others just telling him to give up. However, through it all, Alvin remains determined, knowing that this may not just be his last shot at regaining some happiness with his brother, but his last shot at regaining some happiness with life in general.

“Yeah, honey. You’re driving me mad. Literally.”

So the inside joke about the Straight Story is that, pun intended, there’s not much else to it, other than just what is exactly presented to us. It’s just a normal, everyday story, told in the most straightforward, easy-to-follow manner imaginable, without any curves or side-turns into the extreme or ambiguous. It is what it is, no questions, meditations, think-pieces, or re-watches necessary.

But the reason why this deserves to be said is because it’s directed by David Lynch who, for what seems like the first and perhaps, last time, ever, made a normal movie. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a problem with his many mind-benders that went on to make him famous and well-known, but at the same time, there’s something to be said for a dramatic change-of-pace like the Straight Story, where it literally seems like Lynch is a whole entirely new person, trying on a new piece of skin, seeing how it fits him, and working with it.

And yeah, it works.

The Straight Story is probably one of my favorites of Lynch’s because there are bits and pieces of it that feel like a Lynch film, what with the sometimes odd, awfully random character interactions, but it is still, after all, a movie in its own right. It’s slow, meditative and yes, old-timey, but there’s something truly charming and lovely in that that not only makes us feel like we’re watching the perfect movie for the whole family, but the perfect movie for anyone wanting a bit more drama and depth to their road-tales about elderly people. After all, there’s plenty out there like the Straight Story that feel it is necessary to dumb-down their material, for the sake of making silly jokes and ham-handed sentimentality.

But Lynch proves to be a smarter director than allowing himself to get caught up in all of that. He knows what the material deserves and doesn’t lose his sight on telling it, without trying to add some sort weird spark onto it. Sure, can it be a bit disappointing to see Lynch so ordinary and plain? Probably, yes. But like I said, a change-of-pace, especially one as solid as this, is a welcome one.

Gosh. Cheer up a bit, eh Richie?

It makes you wish that more idiosyncratic directors jumped out of their wheelhouse a bit and tried some new flavor for once.

That said, the Straight Story proves to be as much of a showcase for the skills that Lynch has, as much as it proves to be for the talent of the late, great and highly underrated Richard Farnsworth. As Alvin, Farnsworth gets a whole lot to do; while he is definitely playing an old-school, do-gooder who likes to wax on about the good old days, he’s also funny, charming and above all else, kind of sad. In fact, there’s a lot of sadness to this character – just by looking in Farnsworth’s pale blue eyes, you can tell that there’s just years and years of anguish and grief piling up, and it works absolutely well for building this character and helping us to understand just what there is about him. After all, he’s just another old guy who wants one last shot at life, so what else is there about him that can be offered?

A lot, it seems and it’s why Farnsworth’s a talent we still miss to this day. We just don’t know it.

Sissy Spacek is also quite good in the supporting role as his daughter, although at the same time, doesn’t get a whole lot to do, except have the occasional conversation with her daddy while he’s on his adventure. That’s probably how the whole rest of the cast plays-off as – they’re there to assist Farnsworth in all of his daily duties. Some are good (like a randomly pregnant teen), some aren’t (the woman who hits the dear is so over-the-top, I’m actually shocked it made it into the final-cut), but for the most part, they’re there to help us fully realize the world that David Lynch doesn’t often portray in his films: The simpler, kinder and more soft-spoken one where people aren’t all monsters and demons, but instead, actual nice, sweet people, who wouldn’t mind helping out an old-timer get to see his long, lost brother.

Consensus: Definitely a change-of-pace for Lynch, but a welcome one at that with a smart, attentive direction, witty, humanistic writing, and above all else, a great lead performance from Richard Farnsworth.

8.5 / 10

Pull him over!

Photos Courtesy of: Konangal Film Society

The Mighty (1998)

David and Goliath could have always been pals. But society, man.

Maxwell Kane (Elden Henson) is having a pretty rough time growing up. His mom’s died, his father (James Gandolfini) is in jail, he’s living with his grand-parents (Harry Dean Stanton and Gena Rowlands), and his big, sort of dumb, and easy to pick on. He’s trying to better himself and in a way, make the situation that he’s in, better as a result, but because of all these bullies and the fact that he has yet to pass the seventh grade, really does hinder from accomplishing some of the achievements he sets out for himself. However, there is some hope for Maxwell, but oddly enough, it comes in the form of his next-door neighbor Kevin (Kiernan Culkin), who happens to have been born with a bad spine, forcing him to hobble around on crutches for what may seem like the rest of his short existence. With Kevin, Maxwell not only learns how to read better and pass the seventh grade, but in return, he puts Kevin up on his shoulders and takes him everywhere that he wants to go. And because Kevin has such an ambitious head on his shoulders, this normally leads the two to some pretty crazy and wild adventures, with a few of them leading to some pretty dark and scary places.

Round one, fight!

Round one, fight!

I’m torn about the Mighty for a lot of odd reasons. It’s not because I can’t decide whether the movie is “good”, or “bad”; it’s definitely “fine”, and probably nothing more. No, what I’m really torn about is whether or not I should have liked it more, because of what it did with the sub-genre of kids movies. The Mighty, on the outside and sort of in, seems like a traditional kids movie, in which it deals with some sad themes, like death, jail, and bullying, but uplifting ones, too, like family, love, respect and inspiration.

But it’s never really a total kids movie, or at least, not the kind I’m used to seeing. What the Mighty teaches, is that being the best to your ability is always a good way to get by in life, but also keeping yourself smart, by reading, challenging yourself, and constantly exploring the world, will also make a you better person in the long run. It also takes about the reality of death, what it does, how it can affect you, and how just to get by it all; very rarely do kids movies touch on death, for the sake of not scaring too many parents/kids away from seeing, but the Mighty isn’t scared of doing that. In fact, it embraces the reality of life and knows that it’s better to talk about it, rather than just shove it to the side and forgetting about its existence.

But at the same time, the movie’s still not as good as it should be.

One reason is because while it can be sentimental, it’s also very cheesy, seeming like a movie made in the early 70’s, as opposed to a movie made in the late-90’s. For instance, there’s a bunch of bullies who run rampant around Chicago, picking on Maxwell, Kevin, and oddly enough, random adults who sort of just take it and accept it as is. Needless to say, these are kids who are probably around 15-16, running around a city like Chicago, getting away with robbery and random bits of assault, all forgetting that it’s Chicago and yeah, they don’t put up with a lot of crap, let alone a pack of young white kids, snatches up purses and picking off wallets.

That, to me, is just relatively laughable, but okay, I’m willing to get past it for the sole fact that it’s basically a kids movie and sure, some fantasy is allowed. But then the movie, for some reason or another, decides that it needs more to its plot than just Kevin and Maxwell getting to know one another better, and making each other better people. Therefore, we get a random, wholly unnecessary subplot involving Maxwell’s long lost criminal daddy, that comes in and out of the story for a total of fifteen minutes, wastes the sheer talent of Gandolfini, and oh yeah, is settled in about two seconds.

I'd eat at that table. The kiddies would have to shut it though.

I’d eat at that table. The kiddies would have to shut it and let the grown ups speak, though.

It’s silly and breaks up any energy that the movie had going for it.

Because when it’s about Maxwell and Kevin, well, it kind of works. Once again, it’s one of these kids movies where the kids talk and act a lot smarter than you’d typically expect, which can get to be a bit tiresome, after about the fourth or fifth soliloquy. It does help that two very young guys like Elden Henson and Kiernan Culkin are working with this dialogue, but sometimes, even they fall prey to its forced-quirkiness, with Culkin’s character hardly ever saying anything in a serious manner – older Culkin is a different story, but when he was about 12 or so, yeah, it just didn’t quite work.

Honestly though, it’s a real shame that so many people in this great cast got wasted. Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton are basically here to just be the grand-parents, who don’t really do or say much of anything at all; Sharon Stone tries what she can with such an under-written role as Kevin’s mom; Gillian Anderson’s character is another bit of pure waste, even though she’s charming as hell; and even Meat Loaf shows up, not really doing much. The Mighty is definitely a kids movie, which makes sense that it would put such a huge emphasis on the kids and forget about the adults, but come on, when you have a cast full of so many heavy-hitters, it’s an absolute shame not to use them.

Then again, if the kiddies are happy, who cares, right?

Consensus: Corny, overly sentimental, and surprisingly over-plotted, the Mighty does deal with some very important aspects about growing up and living up to your full potential, but ultimately, doesn’t live up to its own.

5 / 10

Life is better when you tower over everyone. Trust me.

Life is better when you tower over everyone. Trust me.

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex, Mubi

You, Me and Dupree (2006)

DupreeposterEverybody’s got that one, seemingly attractive friend who has an oddly-shaped nose and has every woman attracted to him. Yeah, screw that guy.

Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson) are back from their honeymoon and finally feel as if it’s the time for them to start focusing on their lives and possibly even starting a family. That all goes out the window once Carl’s old pal, Randy Dupree (Owen Wilson), comes around, asking for some money and a place to live. Why? Well, because it appears that Dupree has yet to grow up and accept life for what it is. Instead of having a job where he gets money, he mostly just sits around the house; instead of having a steady girlfriend, he’ll sometimes just jerk-off and have random flings; instead of being able to be trusted and responsible, he sometimes takes a tad too much of everything he’s handed for granted. And while Carl and Molly both grow tired of Dupree’s wild and unpredictable antics, eventually, they come to realize that maybe he’s going to make their lives a bit better. After all, there’s this fun and happy spirit to him that’s almost too hard to deny.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they're not paying for the food, that is.

Some of the best bums I know, are the best chefs. When they’re not paying for the food, that is.

You, Me and Dupree is a very weird comedy in that it doesn’t really have a plot, or, as my pals in the biz like to call it, “a hook”. It’s a mainstream comedy with big-names attached to it, but no real premise to have people the slightest bit interested; if anything, it appears that the powers behind You, Me and Dupree just relied solely on the fact that it was able to get these people to show up in their movie in the first place. Heck, even Michael Douglas’ unfortunate name can’t help but be thrown on the poster, even if he is only in the movie for at least 20 or so minutes.

And the only reason why I bring any of this up is because it’s actually kind of hard to talk about You, Me and Dupree without feeling like I’m just writing about a movie I think I saw. Don’t worry, I’ve seen it and yeah, it was fine. It’s the kind of movie that, like I said, because there doesn’t seem to be anything actually going on other than Owen Wilson acting like a goof-ball, it’s hard to fully remember any stand-out scene that had me laughing for days, or really surprised me. Mostly, the whole movie just came, went, did its thing, and that was it.

Does that make it bad?

Maybe, but I didn’t hate myself while watching it.

If anything, I was just more confused as to how it got made. The movie’s not incredibly funny, nor is it all that dramatic, either. There’s certain ideas and themes about marriage, loyalty, and sex that come and go as they please, but you get the feeling that directors Joe and Anthony Russo don’t really have a clue what to make of them; they’re way more interested in watching Owen Wilson cause all sorts of havoc around him, while acting like the nicest guy possible. And yes, there is definitely some fun to watching this – Wilson is, believe it or not, a likable presence on-screen, so that when he is given cruddy material like this, he allows for it to appear better than it may actually be. There’s no denying that the script is pretty lame and only brings out the gultiest and easiest laughs, but somehow, it slightly works because Wilson’s good at this kind of role.

And the rest of the cast is fine, too, even if they’re far-off worse than Wilson. Kate Hudson is charming, as usual; Matt Dillon gets a few occasions to have fun and be weird, which is always a plus; Michael Douglas gets to play a dick, which is always magically delicious; and Seth Rogen, in what appears to be an early role of his, does well and leaves an impression. Their characters aren’t all as drawn-out as Wilson’s Dupree and for that, they kind of suffer. However, they all try their hardest with material that clearly isn’t up their alley, nor is it made to fully work.

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Mikey Douglas as a father-in-law? Sign me up!

Which once again makes me wonder: How did it get made?

Did the actors just read this script, think it was trash, but because they were somewhat interested in doing something that would give them a lot of money, just do it anyway? Did they all want to work together? Or, did they all just want to spend some time with Michael Douglas? Honestly, the later option is perhaps the most believable and it shows; You, Me and Dupree seems like the kind of mediocre-as-hell comedy that would have been the main focus of a season on Project Greenlight. It’s cheap, stupid and really easy-to-follow-along-with, which is basically what you could call any of the movies made from that show.

However, because the cast is involved, it becomes something of a bigger beast. It’s got a bigger budget and you know what? It’s actually a better movie. Does that make it perfect? Nope, but it does make it at least somewhat better to sit through than the worst comedies from its stars.

May not sound like much, but hey, at least it’s something.

Consensus: With a talented cast on-board, You, Me and Dupree just barely squeaks by as being an okay movie, even if its jokes aim as low as they can, without a single care in the world to actually try harder.

5 / 10

What can he say? He's just Dupree!

What can he say? He’s just Dupree!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

All that I take away is that Jesus, plain and simply, knew how to charm the ladies. That is all.

I don’t think that I’m jumping too far by assuming that just about all of us know the story of Jesus Christ, the son of God, right? Well, if you need some reminding because you skipped CCD or were like me, and just cheated your way through Theology class in high school, then here’s a short synopsis for ya: Here is the story of Jesus Christ (Willem Dafoe). He’s the son of the almighty God that only he, and few other loyal and dedicated followers believe in, however, daddy’s been on his nerves a bit as of late. Not only does God keep pushing his son to do things he doesn’t really want to do, like going out in the world, saving people’s lives and preaching the gospel, but he’s ruining practically any bit of social, or personal life the guy could, or would want to have. But, being that Jesus’ daddy is in fact, the almighty Lord himself, he decides that it’s best he listen, get out there in the world, start speaking his mind, letting people know what’s up and ruffle a few feathers, if at all possible. Jesus does in fact, do that, and pays the ultimate price for doing so. However, there’s a small twist here that dodges away from what the Gospel would have you believe as “truth”.

Because see: When you’re working with Marty Scorsese, you’re working with a guy who doesn’t play by the rules, no matter how set-in-stone or followed those rules may be.

You can't tell me you wouldn't want to hang with that guy!?!?

You can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to hang with that guy!?!?

But you got to chalk it up to Marty’s willingness to take something like this head-on, as controversial as it may have been. Sure, Marty was, is, and never will be a stranger to controversy, but taking on the story of Jesus, our savior, and making a movie about him where he not only is painted as a human, but even has “temptations”, is just downright blasphemous. Of course, not in my eyes though. Many heavy-duty Christians would have you believe that anything that differs from their script of Christ’s life is not only false, but downright evil and should be broken in two, before it causes any more damage to the fragile, God-worshiping minds of our youth.

As you can probably tell, I’m clearly not a huge believer in my faith, despite going to Catholic school for all 12 years of my general-education, but that’s not what matters here. What does matter here is that Marty Scorsese, a guy we all know and love for painting some harsh, violent and brutal pics about the rusty, ragged streets of New York City, for one reason or another, decided it was his time to go in full-on “Christ mode” and start giving us the story of the Bible. Although, as he notes early-on, Marty does not adapt this story from the Gospel so many Christians hold so near and dear to their hearts; rather, Marty adapts the novel that this is based-off of and gives us what some might definitely say is a “humane-approach” to the story of Jesus Christ, and what we may have known him as.

Sure, this is downright despicable in the eyes of the Christians to paint Jesus, our lord and savior as anything else as a man who was more than willing to do and listen to whatever his powerful daddy told him to do, but when you take into context what Scorsese is really doing with this well-known story and “character”, then you wonder why they bitched and complained at all. Surely they couldn’t have not watched a film and got pissed-off about it because the words “temptation” and “Christ” were featured in the same sentence, right?

I mean, they definitely had to have seen this movie, therefore justifying their angry thoughts and complaints about its material, right?

They wouldn’t just jump to conclusions and automatically think that the said “temptations” that the title was referring to was those of the known-prostitute Mary Magdalene, now would they?

Anyway, I think you all know what I’m doing here, and I promise you, I’ll stop my snarky ways sooner than later, but think about it: Had most of those Christians who were originally upset with this movie being made and released to the general-public, actually decided to shell-out some gold and give this movie a watch, they would have probably been happy, since it doesn’t do much to either offend them, nor tell them that they are wrong in their thought-process of believing that Jesus Christ, God and all of that stuff is real and did in fact happen (snarkiness hasn’t ended yet, sorry). Because what Scorsese does here, is that he shows us that Jesus, despite being pushed and pulled this way and that by his daddy and everybody else in his life, really just wanted to break free, live a life, get a job, have a family, tap some fine ladies’ behinds and be like everybody else around him, while also still maintaining his title as “The Son of Christ”. In all honesty, I don’t find anything wrong or even “sacrilegious” about that, do you?

And that’s exactly why Scorsese’s movie works as well as it does; it goes through the tale as old as time that we know of Jesus Christ, and gives us a chance to see just exactly who he was a person, rather than what he was, as a symbol for religion. And though it may have been extremely odd that somebody who is so attuned to gangsters getting their heads popped-off as Scorsese is, to do a movie about Jesus Christ, when looking into the subject-matter, it actually isn’t. Like most of Scorsese’s characters, Christ goes through problems like guilt, repression, evil confusion, temptation and coming to terms with his own identity, and just figuring out who the hell he is. It’s exactly what all of us feel as humans, on a day-to-day basis, and it’s what makes Jesus Christ, in here, seem like such a real person that we could have cracked a few cold ones and shot the shit with, and even dare to ask that girl at the end of the bar’s number.

Okay, maybe he’s not that cool, but he’s pretty damn human, dammit!

"You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar."

“You remind me of a man I once knew. His name was Ziggy, and he played guitar.”

But while the whole “humane-element” surrounding Jesus Christ and practically everybody else around him works for them in believing them as people, the performances don’t do much to help out. Which, yes, is a total surprise considering the amount of talent on-display here, however, I feel like it’s not entirely all their faults. What separates this flick from most of the same skin, is the use of its anachronistic dialogue, where just about everybody here, speaks and acts like you or I would today in the present-day. Yeah, it makes it easier for those to understand just who is saying what, for what reason and to whom, but it makes everybody here seem like they just showed-up for dress-rehearsal, went over some of their lines and had no idea that Marty would be rolling the camera as they spoke in their natural, modern-dialect. At first, it’s a bit weird, but after awhile, it becomes totally distracting.

Instead, what ultimately happens is that we mostly just see Willem Dafoe playing and dressing-up as a Jesus-like figure, although doing a very good job at doing so; Harvey Keitel who isn’t even hiding his New York accent as the ultimate betrayer of the big JC, Judas, who has more homoerotic undertones added to him than I ever caught notice of in Vacation Bible School; Harry Dean Stanton gets to be, as usual, lovely to see show-up as Saul, even though his character is barely given much, or any time to develop at all; and randomly, David Bowie shows up as Pontius Pilate, making Jesus feel like a huge, steaming pile of shit, while walking-off and, more than likely, continuing his large, extravagant party of sex, grapes and togas.

The only one out of this whole bunch that really seems to be on their A-game and totally attuned to what Scorsese has given her is Barbara Hershey, playing the very grimy, very sexual Mary Magdalene that Jesus takes a liking to, if only because he wants her to make her feel better about herself (yeah, right!). She seems to be the only one who finds a way to mix the modern-day sound of her voice, to the old way in which people would have talked back then, without ever seeming like she’s stretching too hard. Not that anybody else does either (or in the case of Keitel, not at all), but she actually felt like the only one who could have lived, breathed, banged and been around during that period.

At the end of the day though, I think where Scorsese really hits his mark with this feature is that he ends it all on a positive, uplifting note. I won’t dare spoil it here, but when you see it, you’ll wonder just exactly why those devoted Christians were so pissed in the first place.

Oh wait, I know why: Because they’re Christians! End of snarkiness, I swear!

Consensus: Though the idea of a movie devoted solely to Jesus Christ and his humane-like ways, may be a sore-spot for some more faith-based viewers out there, for the rest of us, the Last Temptation of Christ ends up being an honest, wonderful and insightful look at the life Jesus himself may have wanted to live, had he been real, or, had he been real, would have liked to do when his daddy wasn’t looking or pushing him.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The end. Or so we think......

The end. Or so we think……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Pretty in Pink (1986)

“It only matters what’s on the inside that counts”, is total bullshit. It’s all about the Benjamin’s, baby!

Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is one of those teenagers that doesn’t seem to fit in because she isn’t rich, she isn’t in with “the crowd”, and just goes about her day all by her lonesome. She has one friend named Duckie (Jon Cryer), but he wants more than she can give him. What Andie is more concerned with is finding her love and also, a date to the prom. Rich, prepped-up tool Blane (Andrew McCarthy), may just be the solution to that. However, he’s rich and fits in with “the crowd”, whereas she doesn’t. Adolescent problems ensue.

No matter what you may have to say about the 80’s, whether it’d be positive or negative, there is no denying that John Hughes makes that decade, what it is known as today: angst-ridden, cool, well-dressed, and very, very hip, in it’s own 80’s way. Watching any of his films and just listening to the dialogue, is what made the guy so damn special in the first-place and listening to them still, all of these years later, makes you wonder; what would he have done to this generation, had he been around? Questions, questions, questions! But what we do know is that the guy was great at writing movies, and this one shows no different.

I’m not going to lie, this definitely isn’t my favorite John Hughes movie, but it still has everything I love from them all: nice dialogue. Everything in this movie may be dated, cheesy, and outrageous, but Hughes’ dialogue still keeps it grounded in some form of reality where we feel like we know exactly what these kids are talking about and going through. Sure, the times have changed what with cellphones, Twitter, Facebook, and the Harlem Shake and all, but every teen still feels the same emotions that these ones were back in the day, and it’s great to see that personified in a way that’s not mean or nice, it’s just realistic.

You can usually tell who the weirdo's are by the glasses they were...

You can usually tell who the outcasts are by the glasses they were…

Maybe I’m giving a bit too much credit to this movie, but for the longest-time, everything that Hughes was throwing at me, I was falling right for. Not all of it works and you can totally tell that some lines probably sounded better in Hughes’ head then they may have come out in the actual movie itself, but it’s always compelling and rather entertaining to watch a bunch of teenagers just talk about the things that matter: money, love, boys, girls, clothes, and prom. Most movies that deal with social-classes and how high-school can be so darn destructive about them, sort of blow-pass the real meaning of what they are all about in that setting, but not this movie. Hughes shows how vindictive people can be, especially ones from high-school and how it doesn’t matter if you have a good heart, love animals, and enjoy picking up trash in public parks on the weekends, if you’re still apart of the geek squad, you’re most likely going to get yo ass kicked by some preppies or jocks. Either way, you’re not like and that’s the honesty I was talking about with this movie. It shows you that Hughes knows what he wants to present and knows exactly what he wants to say. Doesn’t always hit, but when it does, you feel it in more ways than one.

That’s also why it’s so disappointing to see the turn that this movie takes, out of nowhere, into total and complete unbelievableland. Everything before the last 15 minutes was, as you can probably tell by the first-half of this review, very good and kept me entertained, as well surprised by the depth that Hughes was able to enter without seeming too serious. Then, he loses all control and allows this movie to just seem utterly obvious and stupid. Without giving anything away to the peeps out there who haven’t seen this 80’s prized-treasure, a bunch of people that dick eachother over throughout the vast majority of the flick, start to all of a sudden forgive one another and even worse: start using that “L word”. No, not the show, but you know what I mean.

In most movies, that “L word” feels realistic and well-used, but in this movie, not a single-bit. It just seems like Hughes had this script all written-out, the ending and everything, and then Hollywood or whoever decided to put their filthy, stinking noses into it and ruin what could have been a way smarter, way more likeable, way more believable flick. Instead, they ended it with the typical, high-school fluff that most of these flicks go for and it’s as disappointing as it is stupid. Whoever’s to blame for this, I curse you! Okay, time to mellow out now.

A lot of people get on Molly Ringwald’s case as an actress because she showed-up in all of Hughes’ premiere, high-school flicks but you gotta give some credit to the girl; she’s actually very good. She’s played the stuck-up prude, she’s played the loner, and now she’s played the poor, outcast and all sides of her have shown very well. Her performance here as Andie is great because you really feel for with everything she’s going through, not just as a teenager, but as a person that wants love and wants acceptance, but just can’t find it. I like how sassy Ringwald could be, but also how understandable she could be of the things around her and the type of environment she was surrounded-by. She seems a lot smarter than most people would give her credit for, and for that, I have to give her major kudos because it’s not very often you see a smart, teenaged-girl in a movie about high-school and falling in love. That John Hughes. He always knew how to write ’em.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Another person in this cast that kicks ass is Jon Cryer as her bestie, Duckie. Cryer is the type of dude we all is hilarious by now, but back in those days, he was just getting started and he was a true breath of fresh air to watch as Duckie. Duckie’s cool, swift, suave, and charismatic, but also a nice guy that wants nothing but the best for Andie, and it’s a shame that she won’t give him that time, of that very specific-day. We feel for this guy, more and more as the flick goes on, and at the end of the day: we want him to walk-away with the girl, even if he doesn’t stand a chance in doing so.

Even though these two are great, the one who really sticks out like a sore thumb is Andrew McCarthy as Blane. McCarthy is so dull, so uninspired, and so boring, that it honestly is a wonder why any person in their right frame-of-mind would fall for such a sap like him. But then I remember; he has money! Oh yeah, that’s right! Basically, he’s one of those guys that just so happens to be Mr. Charming and the knight in shining armor, despite him not being able to bring anything to the table at all. He’s just a doofus and to watch him try to win over the heart of Andie, was as stupid as it could get. I would have liked it more if James Spader took this role over instead, even if Spader is pretty damn fun to watch as the high-school jerk-bag, Steff, who gets what he wants, when he wants it, and just schmoozes his way all throughout high-school, with a trusty-cigarette always located in his hand. He’s what cool is all about. Not this loser Blane.

Consensus: Although it may harbor some interesting and smart ideas about growing-up and finding love as a teenager, Pretty in Pink still loses itself by the end when everything gets overly-sappy and overly-annoying. However, it’s still an entertaining flick to watch that has aged-well in most parts. Not all, but most.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Now that's the real preppie!

Now that’s a real preppie!

Red Dawn (1984)

When in doubt, always trust The Swayze.

It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town and their country from invading Soviet forces and also try to fend themselves off of each one another as well.

So, after about 4 years of being in post-production, the remake to this 80 classic is finally coming around and to celebrate (if that’s what you call this review) the arrival of it, I’m going to go back to the days when times were simpler, and hell of a lot cheesier. Big, big mistake on my part.

Back in the 80’s, it really seemed like America was paranoid as hell by the Ruskies and what they were going to do to us next, which makes it all the more reason why this film should have just had a whole bunch of more fun with itself. Seriously, when you see a premise that includes a bunch of young kids with AK-47’s, going around and shooting up the Soviets, you should be expecting a whole bunch of ridiculous fun that continues to get better and better as the flick goes on. However, that’s barely the case here and instead, we get a lot of moping, sadness, and total seriousness from everybody involved. I get the fact that maybe the idea back in the 80’s of us getting invaded wasn’t such a funny, little joke like we can sort of have now, but there wasn’t anything here at all to lighten-up the mood at all. Everything is taken as if it really was happening, with real people, real situations, and real guns. If I wanted to see something like this being real, I would go to Russia myself with a bunch of guns and start shooting up the place. When I go to the movies, I expect non-fiction fun and a whole bunch of it, as well.

See, even though the serious-approach to this story may be bad, it gets even worse when you consider the screenplay everybody has to work with here. This is some god-awful screen-writing that starts off corny, gets cornier, and just ends up being downright laughable by the end of it, but not just because of the lines these characters use, but because of what the writers and director behind this movie try to get us to care about. The scenes with the whole army of wolverines together, didn’t do shit for me as half of the time as when they were just sitting around, eating beans, and crying about how they miss their mommy and daddy. I don’t think a single conversation went by without one of them breaking down into a full-out cry-fest as if they just got done watching Marley & Me. Yeah, it’s pretty sad but come on, your shooting the freakin’ people that killed your mommy and daddy so be happy and put a smile on if you can and keep on nuking. Then, the film tries to have it both ways by trying to develop and have us sympathize with the evil characters from the Russian side, but it works for these characters, just like it works for the others: to no avail whatsoever. Basically, we are just left watching the movie without any real human-connection whatsoever and it’s pretty obvious that the film-makers were just depending on the cool premise and right-wing approach the whole time.

Then again, who needs substance, when you can just blow shit up for 2 hours?!? That’s pretty much what this film was asking, and you can totally tell because of the action is pretty solid, in terms of 80’s action glory. I don’t know if this matters at all in today’s day and age of NC-17 movies coming out every month, but this was one of the first flicks to ever get slapped with the PG-13 rating and has 2.23 glorious acts of violence occur every minute. Now, if that doesn’t tell you anything about this film then I don’t know what will but the explosions, gun-play, blood, killing, and warfare is pretty fun to watch and definitely where most of the film’s energy lies in. Didn’t understand why the hell the Soviets took time out of their day, just sitting around and being angry, when all they could have done was just look around for a bunch of young punks in the woods. However, though, I didn’t write this movie and thank God for that or else I would probably have to take up a job as a pizza-delivery boy for Domino’s!

The positive to this film that sort of kills all of those other bad germs is Mr. Patrick Swayze who I will never, ever say a bad thing about in any movie whatsoever. I love the guy and I loved him here, but it’s such a shame that everybody else around him just sucks the life out of everything good that The Swayze does and most of all, does with style. Seriously, you got a cast full of 80’s stars like Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey all accompanying Swayze, and they are all so gosh darn terrible. I don’t know if it was the cringe-inducing script that screwed them over or what, but something was just not clicking here and every time one of these character’s opened their loud-ass mouths, I just prayed that a Soviet wrecking-crew would come around and blow their freakin’ heads off. I know, I know I sound like a freakin’ maniac, but they really pissed me off and I didn’t really give a shit whether or not they completed their mission (whatever that was). I just wanted them to start blowing shit up, taking names, and doing it all for the good of the country. In a way, I guess they succeeded, but damn is it a miserable time getting to that point.

Consensus: Red Dawn is an obvious flick for a cult following: it has guns, explosions, cheesy dialogue, and Patrick Swayze. Then again, though, a lot of those elements that make it so loved by a certain type of crowd, doesn’t always click so well with other viewers who just want to have some fun with a movie and not have to be bothered with a terrible script that’s unbearable at times.

5/10=Rental!!

This Must Be The Place (2012)

I guess there comes a time in a rock star’s lives where they realize they need to look for Nazis.

Bored and jaded, former rock-star Cheyenne (Sean Penn) decides he needs to confront the Nazi war criminal who tormented his father in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He sets out on a road trip across America to find the fugitive.

This is a pretty weird premise, and having Penn in the lead-role, playing a guy that is essentially a mix between Robert Smith and Andy Warhol, makes it even weirder. However, being weird and a tad quirky doesn’t make a great movie, but it makes for a great performance and that’s sadly, all this film may be remembered for when the year 2012 is over. Sorry David Byrne, your soundtrack kicks-ass though.

Where I think director Paolo Sorrentino may have lost himself a bit with this material was thinking that by the idea that you have a weird, lead-character, that you automatically have to make everything else in the film exactly like that and to top that all off, you have to make everything be as random as a guy walking on the beach with a horse’s head. In case you couldn’t tell by that last statement, that idea of random is exactly what happens many of times throughout this whole movie and it never makes any sense other than the fact that Sorrentino believes this is what he needs to spice his story up.

Since it is a road-movie, with this lead character going-on throughout all of these different areas and discovering himself, we get treated (or tricked, still can’t get rid of Halloween lingo) to a bunch of random encounters Cheyenne has with people that either have to do with the Nazi he’s searching for, or just plain and simple people in general. Sometimes these bits are amusing, but other times just feel obvious as if Sorrentino needed people to have this mean something and touch our hearts, but oddly, it never does. Actually, throughout the whole film I was sort of left without any sort of feeling whatsoever. Sometimes it made me laugh, sometimes it was sweet, but mostly, it just moving at a pace that I didn’t really care for, all because it’s a bit too random and strange for my pleasures.

Maybe quirky, little indies like this aren’t the perfect pieces of pie for me, maybe that’s what it is, but whatever it is here, it doesn’t work and it feels like a missed-opportunity too, because this story could have really, I mean, really touched everybody who witnessed it. It’s only worse to know that the movie doesn’t succeed at that and instead, settles for being a strange flick that goes nowhere with itself and believe it or not, only brings up it’s main-plot about 45-minutes through the whole film. Before we even get to the part where this plot is even introduced, we are shown Cheyenne and the way he carries his life and as funny and interesting as it may be sometimes, it still didn’t do anything for me, or this movie. Seriously, something was missing here between me and this movie and I don’t know who’s fault it is. I’m going with the latter, but that’s just like my opinion, man.

However, in the middle of all this randomness, is a very good performance from Sean Penn who plays-up his goofy-side, that is a reminder as to why people loved (and still do love) Louie Spicolli after all of these years. Penn is basically playing a caricature of the typical, burn-out rock star that can’t seem to grow-up or get rid of his old days, but Penn makes it seem more than just that. He’s actually very good handling all of this goofy comedy that he has to deliver and does it with a great comedic-timing that’s made me miss him in comedies for the longest-time. His character, Cheyenne, may be a bit too hard to identify with considering how strange he truly is, but Penn makes it worth while and it’s probably the only reason to see this flick, especially if you think Penn is turning into a crazy hack that doesn’t deserve the light of day. Even if you don’t think this, trust me, there are people who do and he’s showing all of them up right now. Damn Sean Penn!

Playing his wife of 35 years is Frances McDormand and as great and charming as she is, she still comes off as a bit unbelievable due to the fact that Cheyenne is so freakin’ weird. I mean, maybe somewhere in the world a couple like this can come together and stay together as long as any other normal, married one, but in terms of cinematic reasoning, it doesn’t ring all that true to me even though McDormand tries her hardest to make it so. She seems more of a best-friend or sister that comes around and hangs out with Cheyenne from time-to-time and obviously they do some dirty stuff here to make you think otherwise, but take away those dirty scenes and I would most likely think of them as just a bro and sis. Then again, though, they both try their hardest and that’s how I looked at it after all.

Consensus: Even though it’s utter randomness, strangeness, and lack of emotional-heart doesn’t do This Must Be The Place any justice whatsoever, the acting from McDormand and Penn does and keep this film on it’s toes, even if it does seem to go down a road that we don’t really care for, nor actually believe in. Not terrible, but could have been so, so, so much damn better.

5/10=Rental!!

Alien (1979)

Now people understand why we don’t send more humans into outer-space.

In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. After landing on a barren planet, Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) works to decipher the transmission and discovers that the signal is actually a warning, not an SOS. But it is too late to turn back as three members of the crew have already left to investigate the derelict ship.

Movies like this are hard as hell to review because they are just loved by so many people, that it’s almost like a death sentence if you say one bad thing about it. So by the time this review is over, I’ll have to be looking over my shoulder at every corner now.

All of the credit for how awesome this film is, probably has to go to director Ridley Scott. First off, the film starts with all of these slow-moving shots of the space shuttle, where there’s nothing really going on except for there being an eerie feeling the whole way through. This was a great way to start off this flick in my opinion as it showed that the horror film that I was about to see, wasn’t just your ordinary, jump-scare horror flick, it was actually going to be more of a slow-burner that would take its time to build up its scares. Scott uses a lot of slow pans here to fully capture the set designs and spooky atmosphere but also depends on a lot of sounds (or lack thereof) to gain some spookiness too. So many horror films nowadays, feel the need to bring in this huge, grandiose score that makes you feel like you should be scared but somehow doesn’t. Here, Scott depends on a lot of moments of silence in certain scenes where we don’t have some soundtrack telling us what to feel at a certain moment and the noises that Scott usually replaces them with (the computer sounds still give me a chill till this day), actually take you more into this atmosphere than you expected.

Scott also did a pretty awesome job at making this spaceship, and just space itself, look absolutely beautiful with it’s amazing production that is still some of the most inventive in sci-fi movie history. The inside of that spaceship, is pretty freakin’ scary because you never know how big it truly is, what places are safe and what aren’t, and also, top all of that with a whole bunch of darkness that Scott adds in to truly mess with your heads. Hell, even the way those ventilation shaft doors shut gave me the chills! The film also ventures out to an unknown planet that also looks very beautiful, with it’s long, sweeping terrain to give the Alien egg farm some more creepiness to it than it already needed. I don’t know if I’m doing this flick any justice by the way I’m talking about it, but I can say that Scott did a perfect job of filming it all and gave it a very stylized look, even though it mostly takes inside a spaceship.

But it wasn’t just his art direction that kept me involved with this flick, it was mostly the fact that I knew some crazy shit was going to go down and Scott continued to build that idea up and up and up until, the whole film starts to go crazy (along with everybody on the ship). There’s always a sense of eerie dread in the air, something that Scott builds on and lets it get inside of our head the whole way through. You never know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s not going to be good and whenever something bad does happen, it’s injected with so much frenetic energy, that almost don’t realize that they only last for a couple of seconds. We also never get to see the Alien quite as much you would think (the movie is named Alien for Christ’s sakes!) but every time it did show-up, wooooooo-weeee, did it create a lot of tension!!

The one problem that I did keep on finding myself running into was probably one of the dumbest details, but it was also one of the biggest of the whole movie: the cat. I had no idea what this cat was even doing here in the first place, which was fine with me, but the film started to bring it into some key moments like where a person would have to go look for it, only to get killed off the next second, or to have people at the end of the movie trying to save it, while the Alien is ready to kill and all-over-the-place. This just seemed like a cheat to have some characters die and give the characters a reason to go back on the ship, even though it’s about to self-destruct and strapped with a killer Alien on-board. Seemed really dumb, for a movie that was doing so many smart things with itself.

What I loved the most about this film, was how each and every character in this flick got the same amount of screen-time, which also meant that you cared for them a lot more rather than just being a bunch of walking cliches you would normally expect from a horror movie about a crew entrapped on a spaceship with large monster. Tom Skerritt is pretty manly and tough as Dallas, and it’s pretty easy to see why this dude was the head-honcho of the crew. Sigourney Weaver, as we all know, is pretty bad-ass as Ripley and gives her this smart and sassy edge, that really comes out of her by the end when it comes down to nut-up or shut-up time with the big Alien. Don’t know why she had to get half-naked at the end, but hey, she looks pretty good, don’t she?? Veronica Cartwright is a cutie-patootie but isn’t given much to do here, and even when she does do something, it seems like she’s just yelling, screaming, and worried about whether or not she’s going to die. Probably the lamest character out of the bunch, which is saying much. Harry Dean Stanton was a lot of fun as Brett, who brought a lot of humor with his usual, dead-pan delivery. Still can’t believe that dude is 85 now! Sheeesh! John Hurt is good as Kane but I do wish we could have seen more of him because we all do know what eventually happens to that dude. Ian Holm is creepy as balls, playing the freaky scientist, Ash, and just plays up that whole weird, off-kilter dude perfectly. Oh, and Yaphet Kotto is a lot of fun as the token black guy you always need to have in a sci-fi/horror movie. Not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s just something you usually need to have to round it all out.

Consensus: Alien is definitely a sci-fi movie amongst sci-fi movies because it features a highly-stylized direction from one of the greats, Ridley Scott, who gives this film a very tense, dreary, and gloomy feeling the whole way through, and also keeps you guessing until the very end with scenes that are so iconic, I don’t even need to mention here. Just get out and go see it before you see Prometheus, because something tells me you’re going to have to do your homework for this one.

9/10=Full Price!!

Escape from New York (1981)

That poster has nothing to do with this flick but it’s still pretty damn cool.

It’s 1997 and crime rates have been soaring up so high that New York City has been blockaded off for a place where all criminals run around and do their own thing. However though, the U.S. president (Donald Pleasence) is soon captured by these criminals and soon has to be rescued by condemned criminal and former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).

The 80’s may have been a rather lame decade but for legendary director John Carpenter, it was probably the best 10 years of his life that he will ever have and it all started because of this one. I don’t know why though either considering there isn’t anything really special to be seen here.

What bothered me with this film right from the start was how the flick started off so slowly and just seemed to just slide right by with barely any action or anything else that would have held my attention. There’s definitely a certain type of atmosphere here to really get you worried but the film never really plays up on that and is more concerned with building up the plot, which in some cases is a good idea but for this one, it doesn’t work and just comes off more as being a bore fest.

You can also definitely tell that Carpenter really didn’t hit his niche with this flick either. The vision is cool but it definitely isn’t pretty looking and it actually looks a lot more unprofessional and cheesy rather than eye-opening. Since I knew there was going to be a lot of New York looking like total ish the whole flick, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how much Carpenter just littered it up here but then again, he could have made it look a lot better rather than just making it look a bit too much like an indie flick. Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s obvious that Carpenter was on the top of his game with this one but a year later, he ended up making The Thing, so I guess he can be forgiven for that.

However, once that first hour went by everything started to get better and better. There isn’t much dialogue but even when these characters do speak, they seem pretty mean, nasty, and tense which adds a lot to the whole vision and feel of this flick. Speaking of the vision, the central premise of how New York is now all of a sudden a huge play-ground for all of these angry and evil criminals to just do whatever the hell they feel like is really cool and used well enough here to give you a cool feeling that this place is basically shit and everybody in it deserves to die, with the exception of some nice peeps. The action is also pretty good but then again, there wasn’t enough of it except for a one-on-one fight between Snake and this big ass bearded dude that ends in a very cool way which definitely is one of the high-lights here.

The main reason why this film is probably as iconic as it is today is because of its central character himself, Snake Plissken, played by the always amazing Kurt Russell. Russell and Carpenter had great collaborations together and this was definitely one of them because Russell is able to create this bad-ass, cool, and utterly terrifying dudes that seemed like he didn’t give any shit whether or not you were ready to fight, he will just kick your ass no matter what. Plissken barely talks in this flick but even when he does, he always seems to talking through his clenched teeth but he’s not about his words and more about his actions. This guy is definitely one you want on your side in a bar fight and also a character that shows that Russell was and still is able to create characters like this where you don’t want to mess with them, even if you do think they need a nice ass-whoopin’.

As for the rest of the cast, they are all pretty good with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, and Donald Pleasence all showing up, but perhaps the most memorable from this whole flick is Issac Hayes as the #1 and only master of this little criminal playground, The Duke of New York. Hayes is cool no matter what flick he does and here is no exception even though I would have definitely liked to see a little bit more of him being an evil mofo, but then again I think we get enough.

Consensus: Escape from New York has a cool vision, great central performance from Kurt Russell playing the bad-ass character, Snake Plissken, and has some amount of B-movie fun to it, however, the first hour goes down with a whimper and you can definitely tell that this isn’t Carpenter’s best direction but he made up for it a year later so it’s not that bad.

7/10=Rental!!

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

It seems like Todd Phillips must really like some Hunter S. Thompson himself.

Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), go on a three-day romp from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Motoring across the Mojave Desert on the way to Sin City, Duke and his purple haze passenger ingest a cornucopia of drugs ranging from acid to ether.

After seeing ‘The Rum Diary‘ for the bore that it was, I realized that I needed to see the one and only Depp and Thompson connection that everybody’s been talking about for so long. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

I haven’t really been all that familiar with a lot of Hunter S. Thompson‘s stuff but I can say that from what I know and hear, his shit is really crazy and out-of-this-world. This film is really freakin’ weird and it’s all about the insanely-real, and drug-influenced nightmares that go through this guy’s head when he’s taking LSD, coke, and some other crazy stuff that I didn’t even know existed. The whole film feels like a pretty long acid trip, which is much thanks to director Terry Gilliam.

Gilliam is great at these very eccentric and trippy set pieces that really get inside of your head and wonder just if what you are looking at is real, or all just a dream/imagination. Gilliam makes from what I hear pretty unfilmable stuff, and makes it damn realistic but not without making a lot of these drug-induced nightmares very funny and just very crazy to watch. Gilliam was the perfect choice for this type of film and even though this definitely isn’t the type of film that will make you wanna do some drugs, there is still a lot here that shows what it’s like to be on drugs and just how effed up your perception of reality can actually be.

The problem I think this film has is that a lot of the tone feels a bit uneven. Everything starts off all hilarious and very funny, without any type of real judgment on these dudes and all of the shameful things they do when they are completely drugged up, but that all starts to go away by the end of the film and that’s when it gets pretty dark. It blends right into this depressing kind of a film that doesn’t try to throw any messages about how “drugs are bad” at you, but to me, this still seemed a bit weird considering I spent the whole time just practically laughing at all these dudes.

I also feel like the film is a little too long and some scenes could have definitely been cut out, even though it seems like they were just going along with the material. The whole angle with the little, church girl seemed random and unneeded, and the diner scene where Gonzo totally gets big and nasty seemed very out-of-place for a film like this. It was a little too serious, a little too dark, and a little too sad to be placed in a movie where two guys are just tripped out the whole entire time.

Despite those little problems though, I still had a blast with this film, mainly because of the cast. Johnny Depp is the freakin’ man and totally crazy as Raoul Duke. Depp, as we all know, is perfect at playing these eccentric and cartoonish characters, and what he does here not only made me laugh but just watch his whole performance with happiness knowing just how great he really is with these sort of characters. Benicio del Toro is also totally convincing and crazy too as Dr. Gonzo. They are both great together and it’s funny how two completely different actors with two different styles, can come together on a film and just make everything seem like their having a great time with their roles.

Let me also not forget to mention that there are also tons and tons of cameos from a bunch of A-listers and random celebrities such as Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Flea, Lyle Lovett, Cameron Diaz, and even the man himself, Hunter S. Thompson. Oh and then there’s also Garey Busey, but he’s barely ever hard to miss in any film.

Consensus: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has its fair share of being too long and too uneven, but at other times, still has a direction from Gilliam that is beautifully trippy and inspired, and the cast just makes this whole bizarr-o film seem real without getting too serious.

8/10=Matinee!!

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Rango (2011)

Either somebody was watching too many Clint Eastwood films, or took a lot of LSD.

A chameleon (Johnny Depp) that aspires to be a swashbuckling hero finds himself in a Western town plagued by bandits and is forced to literally play the role in order to protect it.

I was actually surprised to see an actual good animation film, that wasn’t by Pixar. I was also more surprised by how different than any other animated film this was.

The real reason this whole film is an awesome treat is because of writer/director Gore Verbinski who does a good job of bringing us so much entertainment to our eyes. When he shot this film, it wasn’t just voice actors in a booth, he actually had everybody up and dancing along and doing all the actions that their characters do. This is what I think adds so much more enjoyment to the film because you can tell that all these actors are having a good time, with all that fun being brought onto us watching this film.

The script for me was OK to say the least, although I did feel it was all a bit too in it’s owns ass. The reason I say that is because there’s too many times where it just seems to be a pop-culture reference, after another and it started to become annoying to the point where I just wanted this story to go on. I did find myself actually chuckling at this film, but I couldn’t help thinking that the writers of this film, felt like they were so much more wittier when they wrote it.

The animation here is so finely detailed, but not in a pretty way, because this may actually have you puke if you’re not careful. There is some gross stuff here like reptiles as well as desert critters, and we get to see every scaly, verbally crack in their skin. Some of this may just scare children, but if you want to look at some amazing visuals, this is the film to see. What I like about this film is that it uses cutting-edge technology to take us back to a kid’s story would kill off a character as well as give us nightmares, but we would still have a great time.

Johnny Depp provides the voice of Rango, and really fits him well because Rango is a very theatrical character which is perfect for Depp because it gives him the chance to really goof around, and as always he does it so well here. Isla Fisher voices Beans, and does a funny job here as our main love interest, who sort of looks like Susan Sarandon. Others in this fine voice cast include Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Abigail Breslin, Ray Winstone, and Harry Dean Stanton. Must I also add that there are two great cameos, from two very iconic figures but once you see them, you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about.

Consensus: The script may think it’s funnier than it actually is, but Rango features top-notch animation, with an overall fun energy that keeps almost all who watch happy, even though the little ones may not like it as much.

8/10=Matinee!!